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Dover music Venue The Booking Hall renews Covid-19 fundraising plea amid unviable social distancing rules

A music venue that surpassed its fundraising target to stay afloat after lockdown, has had to renew its appeal over viability concerns.

The Booking Hall in Dover joined the national #SaveOurVenues movement and launched two online pages to help raise £8,000 via crowdfunder.co.uk and gofundme.co.uk.

The Booking Hall in Dover has been a thriving part of the Kent music scene for three years.
The Booking Hall in Dover has been a thriving part of the Kent music scene for three years.

The entertainment business in Elizabeth Street, had to cancel its events programme in March to comply with rules about mass gatherings as the pandemic coursed through Britain.

Like many pubs, theatres and cinemas, the cash shortfall escalated when lockdown was announced and, although the Crowdfunding page says it could be open in July, venue operator Stuart Cameron said social distancing makes that impossible.

Business owner Mr Cameron told us the government has prepared a draft strategy, so far unreleased, that says venues will be able to open with strict guidelines in place.

He said: "We've had a draft courtesy of the Music Venues Trust (MVT), outlining they will let us open with strict guidelines and measures.

"Our building has a 300 capacity, and I have worked out with social distancing guidelines and after staff, we will be allowed to have 23 people in.

Stuart Cameron fears the Booking Hall can't open this year. Picture The Booking Hall
Stuart Cameron fears the Booking Hall can't open this year. Picture The Booking Hall

"This isn't just me, this is every venue.

"I was chatting to an 800 capacity venue that can only have about 90 people in."

He feels if the draft budget is passed, they will be allowed to reopen but "they are not giving us the tools to do so."

Of the 95 events last year, costing an average of £1,500 per show, he needs 155 people to break even.

Mr Cameron worked out if only 23 tickets could be sold he would have to charge £67 per ticket instead of the standard £10.

"As long as there's 2m distancing music venues can't open. As far as we're concerned we can't open any time soon, probably not this year..."

"It's not feasible" he said.

"To be fair to the government, they have put it to the MVT because they don't want to cause uproar.

"Hopefully when the MVT go back they will scrap the draft.

Mr Cameron explained the £8,000 fundraising target was calculated on a July reopening. If he can't reopen then, he says that money will be "gone and dried up" by August.

In the present climate, he believes he won't be able to open for the rest of 2020.

Unviable: How the Booking Hall's audience will look under social distancing rules
Unviable: How the Booking Hall's audience will look under social distancing rules

Although the government gave a £10,000 grant which paid for staff, artists and overheads, he thinks they should give more financial help to venues that can't open because of the rules.

He added: "Anything can change, hopefully the government will see it's not viable and they can come up with something else.

"As long as there's 2m distancing music venues can't open. As far as we're concerned we can't open any time soon, probably not this year.

All the shows we've got earmarked for this year will be rescheduled.

During lockdown musicians connected with the hall have live streamed performances in exchange for donations for the cause, bosses have also sold special edition T-shirts until they sold out.

In total they've raised £8,742, comprising £2,881 and £5,861 from its respective online pages.

Mr Cameron has thanked supporters via the crowdfunding page. He said: "We can't thank you enough for all the help and support you have shown over the last couple of months.

"We are not out of the woods yet! We need these funds to help us operate i.e, advertise shows, pay staff and book some amazing acts for you to come and see.

"We have been doing live streams every weekend to help raise cash so the venue can re open. We still need your help to get us back on our feet.

"We have many great shows planned and lined up for when we can re open (we promise there going to be big) so help us bring you these events!"

The venue, at the Old Harbour Station building has been part of the Kent music scene for nearly three years.

Mr Cameron added: "The venue has been a success and it shouldn't end because of a pandemic.

"We hope, only if you can, that you will donate towards us getting back on our feet and re open the venue once its safe to do."

For details of up and coming live streams and to stay connected with announcements, follow the Booking Hall's page on Facebook.

You can donate at the gofundme page by clicking here.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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